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Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Today was a bad day. I failed another assignment. I missed the bus and got caught in the rain. I argued with my family. I stubbed my toe. The Reitz Union Food Court was out of spicy sushi rolls.

Today was a bad day for someone in New Orleans. He faced another day without a place to call home. She woke up and remembered a natural disaster stole everything but her memory. He could barely hang on to the memory of his past. She was too focused on the living hell of her present.

We all had a bad day, so we forgot about New Orleans. We all had something better to do.

I attended a forum Saturday about Hurricane Katrina organized by UF student and Louisiana native Jonathan Bennett. I was initially perplexed as to why the subject of the hurricane was still relevant. Besides the fact that I was forced to go for an assignment, I couldn't think of any other reason to be there.

First, the event started at 10 a.m. - one hour earlier would be criminal. Second, Hurricane Katrina occurred two years ago, so the subject is past its expiration date. But I figured listening to Pulitzer Prize-nominated journalist Chris Rose couldn't be a complete loss.

About 15 minutes into the event, I realized how ignorant I had been. Hurricane Katrina is far from expired.

Rose talked about his experiences and showed a picture slideshow that probably jerked more tears than a super-sized Kleenex box could handle. Before Rose, Capt. Mark Willow of the New Orleans Police Department took the stage and highlighted the department's heroic efforts in his own slideshow.

After the event, I interviewed the event organizer Bennett.

I asked him to describe an image that best represented the effects of Hurricane Katrina to him. He said he saw a chair hanging from a chandelier in his best friend's house, a place where he grew up. He told me his childhood was wrecked - physically wrecked.

His words haunted me. I just couldn't shake them.

This isn't an attempt to tug at your heartstrings.

Maybe my words aren't strong enough. Maybe they don't pierce your soul like an episode of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." But Bennett's sincerity and determination to create awareness for a nearly forgotten tragedy dropped my heart into my gut.

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Many people easily forget things that aren't broadcast on the news 24 hours a day. Most of us will forget about the genocide in Darfur once the body count falls. The monks dying for democracy in Myanmar may be a trivia question on "America's Most Smartest Model" in the future - if they're lucky.

And the tsunami in Indonesia? That was so 2004.

It's impossible to heal the world. I'm not asking people to part the sea or give sight to the blind. But it's disturbing when we focus so much on the carnage and the initial shock of tragedy and have no time to devote to the aftermath.

We reach out for that brief moment. Then comes the commercial break, and people move on.

The world doesn't stop, but sometimes we need to. Life is tragic, but it's also hopeful. We don't need to discuss disparity and disaster on a daily basis to make a difference. But let's not forget.

Today is not the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. And today may be a bad day for you. However, today is not a bad day to remember others whose days may be much worse.

Stephanie Rosenberg is junior majoring in journalism. Her column appears on Thursdays.

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